1. The painting, which was ‘quite large’, is mentioned again in the next letter; it must have measured 100 x 75 cm. Over the next few months Van Gogh repeatedly returns to this woman spinning. Since at the end of September he sent Theo a photograph of a painting of a woman spinning – together with one of a sower – we may assume that this is the same painting in every case; it is known from a ‘carte de visite’: see letter 463, n. 1. Subsequently mentioned in letters 450, 451, 454 and – possibly – 466.
It was previously supposed that the small pen-and-ink drawing Woman winding yarn (F 1137 / JH 493) was the enclosed ‘little scratch’, but this is a woman winding yarn, not spinning it. Cf. cat. Amsterdam 1997, p. 78 (n. 3).
2. This could possibly be Man winding yarn (F 1138 / JH 486 [2468]), which measures 22.5 x 23 cm. We do not know whether Van Gogh ever did make a painted version of it.
3. During Theo’s visit the brothers must have agreed that Vincent would make work the size of Theo’s frames, so that he could perhaps show them to other people. Cf. also letter 451.
4. The quote is the opening of Charles Blanc’s essay on Eugène Delacroix in Les artistes de mon temps (Blanc 1876, pp. 23-24). Van Gogh had borrowed the book from Van Rappard: see letter 459.
5. Van Gogh likewise derived these views on the use of colour from Delacroix, by way of Blanc’s essay.
6. In his essay on Delacroix in Les artistes de mon temps Blanc writes about ‘the principles of colour’ and ‘the laws of colour’ (Blanc 1876, pp. 62-67). He too repeatedly talks about ‘tone’. In April 1885 Vincent sent Theo the passage in question: see letter 494.
7. This is the inside measurement at the back of the frame into which the work has to fit.